Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday (local time) said that there is unverified information that at least six American F-35 jets were “in the Iranian border area” when Iran accidentally downed a Ukraine International Airlines flight near Tehran airport last week.
“This information is yet to be verified. But I would like to underline the edginess that always accompanies such situations,” Lavrov said.
He said it was important to understand the context of the incident amid the tensions in the Middle East after Iran retaliated against the US strike which killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
“There is information that the Iranians were expecting another attack from the United States after the strike but did not know what form it might take,” Lavrov said.
At the same time, Lavrov also said that he was not trying to excuse anyone for the incident.
“An increase in tensions between Iran and the US will not help settle any single crisis in the region, if only because the tensions will be increasing,” he said.
On January 8, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran airport. The crash came hours after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases housing US troops in retaliation for the drone strike at Baghdad airport that killed Soleimani.
Tehran initially attributed the crash to technical failure but ultimately said later that the jet was accidentally downed by a missile due to “human error” after further investigations.
The plane crash has further heightened international pressure on Iran after months of friction with the US and tit-for-tat attacks.